Cinderella Coffee Shop *** 1/2
2301 Hyde Park Blvd., Niagara Falls (297-4121)
Scene One: You've just finished a tasty homemade meal at the Cinderella diner, and after loosening the belt a notch, you figure you'd better hit the men's room before you hit the road.
Cutaway to clock: The minute hand moves once, then again, and again . . . you glance up nervously. Before you know it, a quarter-hour has passed and you question the safety of the person on the other side of the door.
Just then you hear a snicker and the door cracks open, allowing you access. As you lock it behind you, the reason for the delay becomes readily apparent: A huge George Carlin poster featuring words and phrases one shouldn't use in mixed company.
That's the Cinderella Coffee Shop: irreverent, maybe -- but good.
Even the name of the place blurs the lines. Some call it the Cinderella Cafe, some Cinderella Lunch, others Cinderella Coffee Shop . . . depending on where you get your info.
Regardless, Cinderella -- like its fairy-tale namesake -- is a throwback to "kinder, gentler" times: like something out of the '50s, a soda fountain kind of setting with a few small tables, a counter, a chatty waitress and some dee-luxe home cooking.
We had no intentions of eating out this particular Saturday morning. Our attentions instead focused on treasure hunting in the form of estate sales.
But once I stepped out of the car and smelled that good ol' grill food -- bacon, bacon, bacon!! -- we just had to stop in.
It had been quite some time since we'd stopped in to Cinderella's, but I was glad to see that the place hadn't changed much.
If any, for that matter.
The specials were still hand-written and tacked onto a corkboard, as if the idea had just percolated. As we made our way to a table, I remembered seeing the word "goulash" somewhere, but couldn't find it on the menu or the specials board.
I asked Friendly Miss Talkative, and she asked the cook, and he answered they did, indeed, have some goulash ($4.75), so that instantly became my order.
She then proceeded to tell me how good the chili was that day and, as I was considering chili as an alternative were there no goulash, I decided to add a cup ($2.50) of that, as well.
Teresa was in more of a breakfast mood -- a hearty breakfast, at least, so she chose the steak and eggs ($5.75).
The chili came first, a thick, brownish concoction featuring bits of Italian sausage. Teresa had promised to help but she wasn't thrilled with a somewhat sweet-tasting base (cinnamon?).
It wasn't what I was used to at home (since I prefer mine on the hot side when I brew up a batch), but I liked it. Especially after I added a few dashes of hot sauce.
Did the same with the goulash, a hearty plate of elbow macaroni with a very light tomato-and-meat sauce. Reminded me of something Ma would make back, oh, in the '50s, maybe? And if Ma made it, you knew it was good eating.
I took the liberty of dashing on some Frank's hot sauce and a little grated Parmesan, just to spice it up a bit. Piled it atop my rye toast slices and kicked back to enjoy.
Teresa ordered her eggs over medium, and they were cooked to perfection. The steak was thicker than usual and without a bit of fat, she reported.
It came with a big helping of home fries, complete with plenty of grilled peppers and onions, the perfect accompaniment to an olde-tyme brunch.
Two thumbs up!!
Get a load of some of these other specials: pulled pork . . . eggplant sandwich . . . beans and greens. Where can you go to get those kinds of meals any more?
Judging by the mix of people coming through while we dined, the place isn't a big secret. The quality and value of the food is, though.
I apply the can't-miss tag hesitantly, but it would be hard to go wrong here.